The Court May View, But Not Weigh, the Evidence on Summary Judgment
In Garcia v. Security First Ins. Co., 5D21-1456, 2022 Fla. App. LEXIS 6197, 2022 WL 4111171 (Fla. 5th DCA September 9, 2022) the insured homeowner made a claim for water damage after a roof leak claim. At deposition, the insured admitted to a prior roof leak and later produced pictures and a damage report. The insurer moved for summary judgment arguing that the insured’s concealment of the prior damage and false statement regarding the pre-loss condition of the home forfeited coverage.
The trial court, finding that it was entitled to weigh the credibility and the evidence under Florida’s new summary judgment rule (which mirrors the federal rule), granted summary judgment. On appeal, Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal reversed, holding that: “Credibility determinations and weighing the evidence ‘are jury functions, not those of a judge,’ when ruling on a motion for summary judgment.”
While this sounds basic, there has been much debate over the reach of Florida’s new summary judgment rule – some argue that the court may weigh the evidence, others argue that it may not. Garcia is the first appellate case decision dealing with the issue and every trial court in Florida must follow Garcia until the appellate court sitting in their District rules differently. Claims professionals should keep Garcia in mind when seeking summary judgment in Florida.Thanks to Charles “Chip” George for his contribution to this post. Please contact Chip with any questions.